BLUE ECONOMY: Fishing Trawler owners Demand Cheap Fuel From NNPC, Dangote Refinery

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Fishing Trawlers

By DAPO OLAWUNI

In order to harness and preserve the blue economy and ocean resources in Nigeria, fishing trawler owners under the aegis of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) have called on the Federal Government to grant them access to direct and cheap diesel (AGO) either from the Dangote refinery or from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)

President of NITOA, Mrs Ben Okonkwo made the appeal during a stakeholders interactive session with the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy in Lagos on Tuesday.

According to her, the hike in the cost of diesel has increased the cost of voyage in the fishing sector from N30million to N140million, even as she lamented that 40 percent of fishing vessels are now down and no longer operating, thereby leading to unemployment of Nigerians.

Speaking, the NITOA President said “This sector is a non-oil sector that is doing $100million per annum. This association was formed in 1986 with a few member companies but later increased in number to 25 companies.

“There were about 250 boats and 100,000 workers across board. However, the business nosedived due to pirate attacks, difficulties in accessing foreign exchange for transactions and procurement of AGO. This forced many investors to divert into other ventures while some parked up.

“At the moment, there are only 8 member companies with about 156 vessels of boat big and medium sizes. The workforce now is about 10,000 including the auxiliary staff.

“We are urging the relevant agencies to engage all stakeholders in finding solutions to the myriads of challenges facing the sector.
Our first challenge is the problem of AGO, the diesel is about 70percemt of the input into our operations, this cost of operation has no alternative because there is no options to AGO for our kind of operation, we cannot talk about renewable energy because it is not a shore operation, it is offshore, so we cannot do without AGO.

“To bunker a normal voyage in the past usually cost N30million, but today we are looking at N140million.

“The cost has got so high that the business owners are getting scared of what the future will be if the business goes under.
We can get fuel directly from Dangote or NNPC.

“Any reduction in price of diesel with the help of the Federal Government just for this sector would go a long way. Presently, because of AGO, 45percent of our vessels are down, and when we have vessels down, there is an extent we go in paying our staff, it would get to a stage that if they are not productive, we would have to disengage them.

“If we can get some logistics arrangements from NNPC and Dangote, it would go a long way”

Mrs Okonkwo also sought for her members, duty waivers on importation of fishing vessels and fishing gears which according to her, are not being manufactured up to standard in Nigeria.

The operators also demanded for tax waivers, which according to her was in existence before in form of export expansion grants, but this has stopped since 2017.

“These grants was designed by government to cushion the effect of some of the challenges we are having now. If it can come back more regular and transparent, it would go a long way.

“The concession exercise by NPA also killed our business, it has been document before that KLT Terminal 1 and 2 should be a fisheries harbour during Obasanjo regime, but later on it was concessioned. We need dedicated port facilities, especially for new investors.

“We cannot continue to have our facilities in a place where you are not sure of tomorrow. NPA is our landlord, presently we are not having long lease, we have short ones, what that means is that they can ask us to leave at anytime. With the level of investment on ground, it would be difficult to move us just like that.

“They should consider the companies and the space they occupy and go across for new investment.

“On Cabotage, what we do, we are not supposed to be captured in the Cabotage Act, but currently we are there. Years ago, we got an administrative waiver, and we went to the House of Representatives to defend why we should not be in the Cabotage but till today we have not heard anything.

“Fishing trawlers should be expunged from Cabotage regime because we don’t have any contracts, we do fishing, which is agriculture, putting us in Cabotage will do more harm than good.

“If we get support, we can go back to the status quo of 250 boats and 200,000 employment like we had in the past.

“There should be stock assessment and data so that we can map out where these fishes and species are located on our waterways. The Federal department of fisheries should have a good mapping of artisenal fishing, when we talk about preservation, we need to identify breeding grounds, preserve them and ensure that no other activities go on there” she concluded

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